Man says he panhandles because he’s forced to wait almost 2 years for disability

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WRTV) — An Indianapolis man says he’s taken to the streets to panhandle because his application for disability requires him to wait almost two years for help.

Richard Frizzle underwent heart surgery in April 2017 and applied for disability that August. Ten months later, Frizzle is still awaiting approval. With no income and no idea whether he’ll get disability, Frizzle has turned to panhandling.

“You learn to survive out here,” Frizzle said. “I got to do something … Got to live; got to eat.”

Frizzle puts himself at the mercy of those willing to give him a bit of their spare change. If he chooses to work, even a small amount, he could lose his chance of ever receiving disability benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, 760,000 people nationwide are currently on the wait list for disability.

Call 6 Investigates confirmed that Richard Frizzle filled out his paperwork for federal disability benefits on August 8, 2017. But the Chicago office of Social Security Administration says the average wait time for a hearing in Indianapolis is 19 months.

In 2017, the Social Security Administration spokesperson told Call 6 Investigates that, “The Social Security disability program is an important resource for people with disabilities, and we work tirelessly every day to provide the best service possible. We acknowledge that current average processing times for disability appeal hearings are high nationally, around 560 days, and we are working to address the issue.”

The wait times have not dramatically changed since that time.

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To qualify for the benefit, the medical condition must meet the agency’s definition of a disability, which usually includes being unable to work for at least a year.

To qualify for benefits, the Social Security Administration says:

“A person must have worked long enough in jobs covered by Social Security (usually 10 years). Then, he/she must have a medical condition that meets Social Security’s definition of disability. In general, we pay monthly benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or more, or who have a condition expected to end in death. The disability must be so severe the worker cannot work. We also consider age, education and work experience when making a determination.”

So Fizzle, and the rest of the 8,800 Hoosiers on that waiting list, continue to wait.

“I’m coasting along. Hopefully, this hearing will come up.”